FEMA crew working on blizzard damage reimbursement

RAPID CITY, COLORADO - About a dozen people from the Federal Emergency Management Agency are working out of an office in Rapid City to help determine the amount that FEMA will reimburse rural electric cooperatives and two counties for damage from a November 5-7 blizzard.

The damage area includes 13 counties and the portions of four American Indian reservations that are in those counties, Dennis Lowery, FEMA external affairs officer, said.

They are working with rural electric co-ops that suffered damages in the counties and with officials in two of the counties that had emergency service expenses during the blizzard that also could be eligible for reimbursement, he said.

In mid-December, President Bush issued a disaster declaration for the affected counties and reservations.

The counties are Bennett, Butte, Corson, Dewey, Haakon, Harding, Jackson, Meade, Mellette, Perkins, Shannon, Todd and Ziebach. The four reservations that might have eligible damages are the Pine Ridge, Rosebud, Standing Rock and Cheyenne River, Lowery said.

The blizzard closed part of Interstate 90 and disrupted electric service in rural areas. Snowfall was nearly 4 feet in the northern Black Hills and a foot or more on the Plains.

A preliminary damage assessment was conducted shortly after the storm.

"The assessment was around $4.8 million in damages, primarily to the rural electric system," Lowery said.

"They would be eligible for FEMA funding because they are a nonprofit utility that serves a public need."

Hundreds of power poles toppled during the early season storm.

"FEMA would provide 75 percent (reimbursement), the state would add 10 percent to that, so the local rural electrics or in the case of the two counties, the counties themselves, would have to come up with 15 percent," he said.

The FEMA funding should be available in three to four months, Lowery said.

"They're anticipating having... all of the information compiled by the end of February, and it would then go down to Denver, to the office in Denver for Region 8, for further review, and then Denver ultimately would release the checks back to the state, down to the local rural electrics or the local county governments," he said.

The FEMA crew is working with the state on the matter, Lowery said.


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